Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Federal Court: 
AU's Role: 
AU's Involvement Began: 
February 2015

In 2012, a same-sex couple asked Masterpiece Cakeshop to bake a cake for their wedding. The bakery's owner refused, citing his religious belief that homosexuality is a sin. The couple then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission under the state’s public accommodations law, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

An administrative law judge held that the shop owner had indeed violated the law, and the shop owner appealed that ruling to the Colorado Court of Appeals. The shop owner argued that given his religious beliefs, enforcing the public accommodations law against him would violate his First Amendment rights to free speech and exercise of his religion.

In February 2015, we filed an amicus brief in support of the couple. We argue that the First Amendment does not excuse businesses from their obligation to treat all customers equally—even when the discrimination is motivated by religion.

In August 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission's ruling, holding that the anti-discrimination provision does not violate the shop owner's rights to free speech or religious exercise. The shop owner petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court to review the case, but the court declined.

In July 2016, the bakery asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the case; AU issed this statement.